Last Updated on June 15, 2021
Heat, serve and plate like a Masterchef
Eating at 35 000 feet has a somewhat dodgy reputation. Trays full of frigid food – or meals so overheated they burn your mouth – are anticipated more to dull the boredom of the long-haul flight than for any expected pleasure from the meal. I have lost count of the number of chicken curries I have eaten from a foil container. Those whose purse enables them to travel by private jet do not share these disappointments of mass catering with their fellow citizens. Luckily for them, their food derives from quite a different kitchen – that of On Air Dining, a company providing catering for executive and private aviation. Now, courtesy of sister company, One Fine Dine, the very best of in-flight dining can be enjoyed on terra firma. One Fine Dine is an elite at-home catering service that delivers gourmet meals to your home. CEO Daniel Hulme writes that this cuisine has been served to heads of state, global business leaders and celebrities. Now I get to eat it in my garden.
With staycationing becoming the new way to travel, One Fine Dine has teamed up with Bloomsbury Estates so that diners on holiday can continue to benefit from home deliveries when they are putting their feet up in a luxury holiday home. If heating and serving souends too strenuous, One Fine Dine can arrange for a private chef to cook in your holiday abode and even do the washing up.
One Fine Dine’s strapline is heat, plate, serve. I have spent many hours during lockdown preparing elaborate meals from at-home meal kits and these vary in complexity and time spent in the kitchen. Nowadays I am all for those kits that spare me time and give me pleasure. Especially while I am on holiday. My family can vouch for the pleasure of relaxing while waiting for a fabulous dinner to appear on the table. The only downside for me is that I am usually the one in the kitchen. Now, I too can enjoy a pre-dinner sundowner.
The three-course meal that arrived from One Fine Dine was divided into a generous number of containers and was accompanied by a very welcome bottle of wine as well as an equally welcome set of cards that contained the instructions. I smiled when I read that it is very difficult to ruin the food and simple to plate, no matter your level of skill in the kitchen. Was this a challenge? On several occasions over the past year, I have attempted to recreate a number of chefs’ fabulous food myself only for the ingredients to belly flop onto my plate. Now I prefer for the chef to actually cook the food, leaving me to simply heat and plate. This is where One Fine Dine delivers just what I need.
As I began to prepare the meal, I thought about how many air stewards might have been squinting at these same recipe cards which have photographs of every stage of the plating. I imagined doing so in a tiny private jet kitchen for a table of expectant diners who are accustomed to luxury at every turn. My fellow diners were lounging in the garden, their bar set somewhat lower. No cabin pressure nor stress for me then. Yet, I found that I lacked certain skills. One of these was creating attractive swirls with the multiple sauces in tiny piping bags. Having watched countless, mesmerising videos of people effortlessly icing cakes on Instagram, I imagined it would be easy. It is not. I hope the airline stewards have a training day for this sort of thing. Swirls aside, I was pleased with my efforts and the food itself was of an excellent standard.
We began with three starters. My favourite was compressed and charred cucumber with feta mousse, chardonnay tomato and olive crumb. This was so refreshing to eat and colourful on the plate. A small square of cucumber was crunchy and sweet with dill. The chardonnay cherry tomato had been peeled but retained a frilly lid. Such lovely attention to detail pleases me considerably. The olive crumb added extra colour and textural interest. This was a plate that has been so thoughtfully composed and was a delight to eat.
The second starter was grilled white asparagus with pancetta crumb, tahini aioli, asparagus panna cotta, soft boiled quail egg. This was a beautiful Spring plate in shades of green. The tahini aioli was a revelation – and I eat a lot of tahini in all guises – and was accompanied by a black tahini sauce as well. Asparagus were both white and green and the asparagus panna cotta was a first for me. The dish was visually appealing and once again, had good textural contrast. I loved the tiny soft boiled quail’s eggs. Tiny details all attended to as befits this level of dining.
The third starter was seaweed wrapped cured Scottish salmon with pickled Asian radish, soft poached quail eggs, avocado and wasabi, soy and honey dressing. This dish was a theme in pink with the salmon and the pickled radish looking radiant. The salmon was delicately encased in seaweed while the wasabi and avocado purée added a touch of heat. I liked the two ways with the pickled radish – the first being a cone and the second a tiny baton. Both added crunch as did the charred spring onion.
The two mains were both excellent and generously portioned. North Atlantic blackened miso cod is one of my favourite dishes. Here, all that was required was to heat the fish and vegetables – sesame braised bok choi and leek, shitake and miso broth – and plate. The fish was perfectly cooked, the miso sauce aromatic and umami-rich – and the cress salad on the top added visual effect.
28 day Hertfordshire beef fillet was served with smoked potato purée, shallot marmalade, glazed onion, bone marrow crumb, baby heirloom carrots and thyme jus. The beef was very rare and tender, had been seared before and simply needed heating. The smoked potato was lovely and I liked the allium family riff – the shallot marmalade being placed inside the glazed onion. The bone marrow crumb added crunch and flavour to an already full-bodied dish.
Bardolino Classico Lenotti 2019 was a light red that paired well with the dishes and was just right for the warm weather.
By dessert, we were flying high partly from the wine and partly due to the wonderful courses we had enjoyed. The apricot bavarois had good flavour and texture. A disc of crunchy, green pistachio praline was topped with pain perdu, the orange bavarois and, finally, a piping of mascarpone mousse was sprinkled with toasted white chocolate and micro mint.
I fell at the last hurdle when the chocolate fondant collapsed on the plate. It tasted delicious nonetheless with the accompanying morello cherry compote and crème fraiche d’Isigny, but I have no doubt I would have lost my job serving this to those who usually eat these dishes on private jets. Fortunately, my family are more forgiving.
A plate of gorgeous petit fours ended the sumptuous meal on a high note. Orange and honeycomb fudge was particularly memorable. The set menu is priced at £65 per head which I think is very good value for a meal of this quality. Not only are the components well presented and beautifully cooked, but the attention to detail is what one expects of high-end dining.
One Fine Dine has a monthly menu and diners can choose from three items per course. There is also an à la carte menu and an impressive wine list. Delivery is available nationwide.
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